Democrat Amy Klobuchar cruised to a second term in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, easily brushing aside a little-known and poorly funded Republican challenger.
She easily beat state Rep. Kurt Bills and a third-party candidate on Tuesday night. The race was never considered close after big-name Republicans decided against tackling Klobuchar, a popular senator with high name recognition and a rich campaign fund.
Bills, a high school economics teacher from the Twin Cities suburb of Rosemount and a first-term state lawmaker, became his party’s choice thanks to support from backers of Texas congressman Ron Paul, whose maverick presidential bid drew a strong new contingent of civil and economic libertarians into the party. But he immediately struggled to gain traction with traditional GOP donors, some of whom were won over by Klobuchar’s moves toward the middle and others who disliked Bills for his Paul connections.
Klobuchar has scored well in opinion polls since winning her first term in 2006. She drew endorsements from right-leaning business leaders around the state, and raised massive amounts of money to help her cause.
By mid-September, Klobuchar had nearly $5 million in her campaign account, while Bills had about $5,000.
Klobuchar, a former county prosecutor, ran hard anyway. She played up several pieces of legislation she worked on with Republicans as evidence of her bipartisanship. While Klobuchar was running a pair of soft-edge commercials playing up her moderate credentials, Bills couldn’t afford TV ads at all.
Bills tried to turn his underdog status to advantage, even cutting an online ad that compared his candidacy to that of the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone — a surprise winner in 1990 against a better-known, better-funded incumbent.
But that comparison drew fire from Wellstone’s family, who pointed out that Bills’ fiscal conservatism was worlds away from Wellstone’s liberal principles. The Bills campaign attacked Klobuchar more directly as the campaign progressed, calling her a “prom queen” and “daddy’s little girl” in news releases.
Klobuchar mostly ignored Bills. She focused on touting her record, pointing out issues where she worked with Republicans on shared principles and pledging that reducing the national debt would be her top priority in a second term.